Nile Breweries’ Local Enterprise Agriculture Programme has made a significant and lasting difference to the fortunes of farming communities in Uganda by creating new market opportunities and improving skills
Sorghum is a plant related to sugar cane that is tolerant to heat and drought, making it a staple crop in arid regions of the world such as Africa, Central America and South Asia. With around 30 varieties currently under cultivation, sorghum is used for human and animal food, biomass – and making beer.
The pioneer of sorghum beer was Uganda’s Nile Breweries Limited (NBL), which in collaboration with Ugandan government scientists developed a special strain of sorghum, named Epuripur or Special Sorghum, which is ideal for brewing. NBL launched its sorghum-based Eagle Lager in 2002, subsequently rolling out the brand to Zambia in 2005.
Eagle has been a huge success: within five years of its launch, it represented around half of NBL’s sales in Uganda. Eagle is the public face of a long-term project by NBL to promote farming as a business within Uganda. This is called the Local Enterprise Agriculture Programme (LEAP) and it is a great example of how commercial interests and community benefits come together. At its heart was NBL’s desire to bring down the cost of beer by replacing expensive imported raw materials with locally-sourced ingredients, and then engaging with Uganda’s government to secure excise concessions for beer brewed using home-grown ingredients and helping improve livelihoods.